Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Encore Awards: Visual Categories; Part One (Makeup, Costume, Art Direction)

So, I'm on to what is so lovingly referred to as the the artistic side of the technical branch. I say lovingly because I love this branch. I'm like a child in that way, look pretty things, bright colours and I'm distracted. Shame on me.

(click on the photos for reviews

The BAFTA gives out their awards for achievement in hair & makeup, and I’m not sure if the AMPAS has the same rules because in theory, you’d think hair is an important aspect of film but from the nominees that AMPAS gives out you wouldn’t think so. Anyhow, my citations are for both.

Black Swan (Marjorie Durand, Geordie Sheffer)
I could say that like the costumes – but to a lesser degree – I resent the artistic work in Black Swan for being so obvious with its dark versus light theme. Yes, I get it – that’s the overarching theme and all, but still. Nonetheless, I have much love for the hair and makeup here because it’s sort of fun in its histrionic way. I’d give them recognition just for what they do with Barbra Hershey, and as the film reaches its (tentative) resolution the work here becomes more and more important.

The Fighter (Johnny Villanueva, Donald Mowat)   

The amount of times my sister and I would make a comment about the voluble hair of the sisters made me know that I’d remember The Fighter here. Sure, the work on Leo and Bale is good and sure, the boxing injuries use makeup but it’s the hair and not the makeup that I remember most – from Leo’s blonde coiffeur to every single one of those sisters who you can identify by their hair. 

Nanny McPhee & the Big Bang (Peter King)

The citation here, in theory, would be for uglifying the luminous Emma Thompson (which is borderline crazy – because she’s so gorgeous and all), but it’s Ralph Fiennes I keep thinking of. He doesn’t quite look vile, but the work is astounding and then Rhys Ifans in his villainous madness (and Maggie’s hair – which makes me laugh, for reasons beyond my knowledge.) 

The Runaways (Robin Matthews, Terrie Velasquez)

This is probably the only film this year that pays as much attention to hair as the makeup, and with brilliant results. It’s a bit lucky, because it’s show business so they NEED the makeup and the hair and all that pizzazz and it’s used for all it’s worth (but never too much). As good as Kristin Stewart is, I want to give half of the accolades she gets to the makeup team. 

True Grit (Thomas Nellen, Kay Georgiou)

Is it me or do all Westerns look the same? And True Grit looks like a typical Western, and then it doesn’t. The goodness of the makeup takes some time to sink in because it’s not especially striking but the work on Damon and Brolin comes to mind as especially developed – even if you’d immediately think of Bridges as a candidate here. True, they don’t have that much hair to work with – but it’s all well done.

FINALISTS: I’m at once impressed and confused with the hair and makeup choices in Never Let Me Go. The wigs especially come across as immediately ridiculous (and not in the hillbilly way of The Fighter) and yet they sort of work. I’m still surprised at how technical aspects – makeup included – are not as obvious and jarring as you’d have expected them to be even if they’re weird; the patients seem like the most obvious candidates for makeup work in Shutter Island, but I’m most impressed by their ability to turn Michelle Williams into a femme fatale before she even has lines and making Patricia Clarkson just the right amount of creepy, it’s the sort of work that is not usually recognised – shame.
SEMI-FINALISTS: Burlesque; The King’s Speech; Let Me In; Night Catches Us
Agora (Gabriella Pescucci)          

The biggest compliment is that the costumes do seem to be designed with especial care for the characters and for my (untrained eye) it’s not anything boring like recent – failed – epics of the period. They don’t overestimate the importance of colour – although it is taken into account, and though we don’t have that many women to judge Hypatia against I love how her costumes are feminine but never ornate.

Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood)

There’s a moment where Alice begins to grow – literally – and her very basic dress turns into another not so basic one. It’s the sort of indication of dress indicating character growth, at times the costumes provide indication of Alice’s mindset more than Wasikowska’s general boredom.

For Colored Girls (Johnetta Boone)

We know by now that contemporary costuming is the Oscars’ blindside unless it’s begging for recognition (see The Devil Wears Prada), but in such a piece that depends on EVERY aspect of poetic conceits the costuming is as striking as the dialogue at times. And though that final scenes costuming makes me smile for its whimsical way it’s still serving the story excellently.

The King’s Speech (Jenny Bevan)

Sensibility thrives over whimsy here, and true – I’m a fan of whimsy, but it is impressive how Beavan is more interested in serving her story than going over-the-top. I’ll admit, I’m not especially in love with her decision to go more monochromatic than necessary, but when she does bring out the softer tones (for the Queen) it is beautifully done.

Never Let Me Go (Rachel Fleming, Steven Noble)

Aspects of the film fall short for me oftentimes when it comes to the right amount of subtlety, but the technical aspect (score aside) constantly impress in their delicacy. It’s proof that pretty and artistic doesn’t necessarily mean loud and obvious.

FINALISTS: Sometimes Burlesque gets a bit wild with the clothes, but is it wrong that I love it for that? I think not; I like the work done in Robin Hood for the opposite reason. Janty Yates avoids the chance go overboard with overly flamboyant period pieces; and Sandy Powell is doing a whole lot Shutter Island is doing a whole lot with her costumes – just like every other technical aspect that eluded praise this season. Shame.

SEMI-FINALISTS: Night Catches Us; Nowhere Boy; The Runaways; Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Agora (Guy Hendrix Dyas, Frank Walsh)
Maybe, just maybe, my unknowledgeable self may not be the best expert – but then, even though it’s not all made from scratch there’s no doubt that even the rooms in Hypatia’s house are so meticulously created and developed. I’m not certain where the line ends between its production design and the photography team (who, by the way, are brilliant) – but what the hell? It’s thrilling either way

Inception (Guy Hendrix Dyas, Brad Ricker)          
Where do the visual effects end and where does the production design begin? Ah, questions – questions. I feel a bit annoyed that because of the (admittedly good) visuals a modern day piece like this gets the praise for art direction than most contemporary flicks to get but I can’t stay mad because the production work is especially good – and it should be, the story demands it and even though there’s a bit of a symbiotic and on that count Nolan and his team deliver admirably.

The King’s Speech (Eve Stewart, Netty Chapman)
Sue me, but I have a penchant for pretty things so I find the entire production design here a bit difficult to resist. Everything is just so lovely to watch, but what’s really surprising is it never turns into one of those annoying ornamental period pieces where the film is just begging you to pay attention to it. Everything in Logue’s office works so well, and it’s serving the story, being regal but not officious – functional but still appealing; a bit like the monarch himself.

Nowhere Boy (Alice Normington, Kimberley Fahey)
I’d intimate that it does what Black Swan does a little better – on the art direction front at least. Notice how Mimi and Julia almost have the production design of their houses defining themselves (and it’s not unsubtle like the costumes.) Taylor-Wood is already interested in creating a world that’s a bit more fanciful than realistic and the production design doesn’t exploit this – but does it in an unexpectedly subtle manner.

Shutter Island (Dante Ferretti, Robert Guerra)
Like Inception the tie-in with visuals is potentially dense, and like Inception it’s the sort of film where creation of atmosphere is imperative to the success. It’s not as overtly dazzling, but it’s not really supposed to be. It underscores, but never overpowers the story so that when those very literal plot revelations come the production design is there to back it up – but not ham it up.

FINALIST: Get Low More than Felix’s appearance it’s the production design of his abode that makes the impact on the audiences. Geoffrey Kirkland resists the urge to make it too embellished and in a film that depends a whole lot on atmosphere the production design becomes a key asset in achieving this;
SEMI-FINALISTS: Black Swan; Never Let Me Go; Robin Hood; True Grit

What would top your list? Did the hair and makeup in The Runaways do it for you? Did Atwood’s costumes impress? Was the production design in Shutter Island snubbed? What would top your list?

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